I was only 3 when the first Toy Story was released in November of 1995 and I have so many fond memories of watching it with my family or by myself on repeat. That VHS was so worn, to this day, it’s weird watching the digital version because I remember at which parts my tape was nothing but static. In 1999, Toy Story 2 came out and I immediately fell in love with Jessie. I was 7 by this time and she was my absolute favorite character for years after the movie. It was effectively the first sequel that I had seen that didn’t go straight to VHS and it really built out their world in the best way. We learned more about Woody and why he’s so special to Andy and his mom, how much Buzz had developed as a character to remind Woody about the importance of being loved by a kid no matter what and we saw Jessie accept being loved despite the trauma of being thrown away and kept in the dark for so many years. As a kid growing up in the 90’s, you really could relate to them as your friends. Our first family trip to Disneyland was in 2001 and my highlight was meeting those toys from my favorite films. Even though I was 9, I treated them as if I was really meeting them in person because they were real to me.
Eleven years later we got Toy Story 3.
I was a little nervous about a threequel. Disney didn’t have the best track record when it came to continuations of the same story by this time, but it absolutely blew me away. I was 4 days shy of turning 18 and I went to the midnight premiere with a friend to celebrate. Like most of us, I had a full on break down by the end of the movie. While some saw the end as a little extreme, it was the perfect way to show us the toys were going to be alright. Woody and Buzz, to infinity and beyond, loyal to the bitter end. This time I actually related more to Andy, as I was preparing to go off to college and ‘grow up’ that fall. Even the advancements in the animation gave me chills. Since then, PIXAR has made a few Toy Story Toons that were a great way to give us a little peek into what the toys have been up to since being adopted by Bonnie. My favorite by far was Partysaurus Rex because it’s nothing deep and it’s a fun way to build more of their world out for us.
I will say there was a period of time when I avoided those toys like the plague. While I was working at Walt Disney World as a character attendant in 2013, the “ANDY’S COMING!!1!” craze happened during one of the busiest times of the year, spring break. Never have I wanted to be so far from a Disney character in my life. I did everything in my power to not be scheduled with any of them for any period of time in fear of ending up on YouTube explaining why they didn’t drop to the ground after the 4,930,2856,294th person shouted it that hour. The photo on the right was taken on a day I had to cover for someone who had called out of their shift but would end up being one of the only times I would be made to have a full-on meltdown by a guest while still ‘on stage’. You can even see the reluctance in my eyes to go out on set, but that’s a story for another time.
The night of my 27th birthday, My boyfriend and I were in line to get drinks at the theatre when the girl behind the counter basically gave us the entire summary plot of the movie after asking what we were there to see. “It’s about this suicidal fork who blah blah blah…”. While I was a little annoyed, I had unintentionally seen the teaser trailer a few weeks prior while in the theatre for End Game. Who would have thought the studio that owns both franchises would plug their other works…
I didn’t have a strong opinion at the time because they had done such a good job with the trilogy so far, PIXAR had my full trust to produce another masterpiece.
Boy, would I feel dumb by the end of it.
In this new film, we find out that Woody isn’t Bonnie’s favorite toy for like maybe a month and he goes into his “I need to be the center of attention” complex we went through and apparently did not learn from in both TS 1,2 & 3. Bonnie has a hard time adjusting to kindergarten, so Woody takes it upon himself to make sure she has a friend with her and helps her make ‘Forky’ while in class. A spork in which she develops an unhealthy attachment to cope with feeling lonely. The next ten full minutes are spent watching this spork with googly eyes and pipe cleaner arms trying to throw himself in any available trashcan and Woody literally bending over backward to make sure he doesn’t.
While on a family RV trip, Forky throws himself out the window, Woody follows him and they become lost toys (Deja Vu?). After Woody’s Freudian slip of using Andy’s name instead of Bonnie’s, they have a heartfelt talk about why being a toy and having a kid is what gives life meaning. This inspires Forky to be overly enthusiastic and ready to get back to Bonnie and be the best darn toy he can be. Just as they’re approaching the RV park, Woody conveniently notices Bo Peep’s lamp in the window of an antique shop and feels the need to go looking for her inside. They instead meet Gabby Gabby, a dysfunctional doll who wants to take Woody’s voice-box for herself, and Forky is kidnapped by her creepy ventriloquist doll henchmen as collateral. Woody is then found and taken by the shop owners’ granddaughter to a nearby park where he does find Bo. While I will say she is a complete and total badass, they just glaze over what Bo Peep has spent the last 9 years doing, why her arms are broken or anything relevant to her backstory at all. We do see a flashback when Woody had the chance to join Bo before she’s given away, but a frantic Andy snaps him out of it and he stays behind.
Meanwhile, Buzz’s character development has just disintegrated entirely. He hasn’t gone full astro nut, he resorts to using his pre-recorded voice buttons as his conscience after Woody has to explain to him what having an inner voice was. It results in some cheap jokes but ultimately defines Buzz as an idiot who does nothing to add to the plot. We are also joined by a few other new characters such as Duke KaBoom, the polly pocket officer (I can’t even be bothered to look up the name) Ducky and Bunny. None of which bring anything particularly important to the story either, other than a few laughs here and there.
Bo brings everyone into the shop and we are beat over the head with how desperate toys are to have owners in this universe, even the mere mention of Bonnie sends all of them into a frenzy. This group goes on to devise a plan to rescue Forky, at a big risk to everyone involved, they are ultimately are chased outside by the cat and Gabby Gabby’s dummies. Woody, being the loyal toy that we know, wants to try one more time to save the toy that his kid loves. Bo and her group leave Buzz and Woody in a huff after the sheep were chipped and the polly pocket was swallowed then regurgitated by the cat. Woody tells Buzz to go back to the RV and get it to the merry-go-round. By now it’s dark out, we see Jessie and the other toys stalling for time, waiting for Buzz and Woody to return with Forky. Other than a few scenes in Bonnie’s bedroom and in the RV, we don’t see or hear them at all. They might as well not have been in the movie whatsoever.
Woody then goes back into the store alone, only to be immediately cornered by the antagonists. He is then easily manipulated by Gabby and her sob story of how she would give anything to be loved by just one kid like Woody had been by both of his (Deja Vu x2). Feeling the need to help this toy fulfill her purpose, he just gives up his voice-box and he and Forky are free to leave. As they do, Forky stops to watch Gabby being noticed by the shopkeeper’s granddaughter for the first time, a kid this doll has apparently been obsessing over for years, only to be tossed aside because the girl isn’t interested in Gabby after all. Woody then convinces Gabby that Bonnie would love her instead and that she could come with them (Deja Vu x3). They make their break for the RV but along the way, Gabby notices a lost kid at the fair and decides to go to her instead. It works out for her, because of course it does, and the rest of the gang meet up with the RV at the last possible second (Deja Vu x4).
Now that everything has been Deus ex machined, everyone is on top of the Merry-go-round/awning of the RV and Woody says goodbye to Bo. He tries to convince her to come with but she doesn’t want to have another kid, she wants to be free and travel the world. As he mopes back towards the RV, Buzz notices how sad he looks and says, “She’ll be alright…Bonnie, will be alright”. As if Woody needed some sort of permission to be able to just abandon his friends and owner. With no hesitation, he takes off his Sharif’s badge, pins it on Jessie and he gives both her and Buzz a big long hug. Then he and Bo watch as the RV drives away into the moonlight. and that’s it. That’s the end of the Toy Story.
As of writing this, Toy Story 4 has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I personally hold Disney and PIXAR to an incredibly high standard and feel very passionate about this particular story because it’s one I’ve literally grown up with my entire life. Once the last credit rolled, I immediately turned to my boyfriend and said, “I didn’t like it”. As we walked out of the theatre, I started to deconstruct all the flaws out loud until I quickly realized he was not nearly as invested in the inconsistencies in the plot as I was and said, “It’s just a kid’s movie”. He is not entirely wrong, but I thought it might be best to save this crazy rant for the internet. So here we go.
This movie feels like PIXAR only playing to the nostalgia of a generation. As if they basically just said, “Hey! Remember how we didn’t what happened to Bo Peep? Well, we’re gonna tell you now in a full length animated feature film that costs like $14 to go see”. They know if they make a movie with these beloved characters, we’re going to go see it. I’m not saying don’t go out to see it if you enjoy seeing these characters on the big screen no matter the context, but this was basically one giant cash-grab of a movie.
For me, it was like watching Toy Story 1,2 & 3 over again but with a different ending. Tell me if this sounds familiar; Toy has an existential crisis, the toy gets lost/stuck, toy meets/gets bullied by an unloved toy, but this time, toy uncharacteristically abandons his friends and family to selfishly live a life ‘freely’ with his long lost girlfriend because he feels as if he has fulfilled his purpose as a toy. Despite how much emphasis was made by practically every single toy desperately wanting owners during this film or the famous line, “life only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid” in TS2. What we don’t see is Bonnie losing her mind when she can’t find Woody in the RV later. She was devastated after she lost him after having him just one day in TS3. The plastic spork with junk glued onto it will actually go in the trash like two weeks into the school year, at the most. Woody, as a collectible from the 50’s, has lasted a surprisingly long time. I really don’t understand the logic behind this and it angers/upsets me.
“The thing that makes Woody special is he’ll never give up on you…ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.“
Andy Toy Story 3
Ultimately, I can’t imagine a lot of people saying that they are glad #4 exists and that it was needed to really wrap everything up. At the end of the day, it was made for fan service. If you wanna go in, feel good about seeing these characters again, see them getting into trouble, you want some emotional feels about one of them having to do something that will leave a big emotional impact on either themselves or the rest of the toys, it’s there.
My biggest fear in this age of CGI Disney sequels is that we are starting to witness the downfall of PIXAR and original storytelling. Of the 21 movies PIXAR has made since 1995, 8 of them are sequels. In an interview from 2016 before John Lasseter’s departure from the company, Pete Doctor commented on Toy Story 4 saying, “It’s taking things into a little bit of a new direction which I think will really surprise people, and hopefully not feel like the first three but still familiar in a way. I don’t know if that even makes sense but it’s pretty awesome…And we all struggled mightily with that because we’re in the same boat- they felt like it wrapped up very nicely. But, man, if we can hit what he was after I think it’ll be great.”
Objectively, I think this is an OK movie. Keeping in mind just how high the other three really raised that bar, this is another one being made in addition to already having a “perfect ending”. I feel like they really had to knock a fourth movie out of the park if you’re gonna say, “No! We have something else really important and really huge that we wanna tell you.” That is not what I get from this movie. A good comparison would be The Incredibles. We wanted that sequel because that’s how they left us, wanting more. PIXAR did a good job continuing that storyline ( I have a few issues with it but not worth an entire blog post). After Toy Story 3, in my unsolicited opinion, it was not justified to make another film. I do understand they needed a solid film that would keep the lights on so that they can take risks on upcoming movies like Onward or Soul. I just hope the studio continues to fly, and not fall with style.
TLDR: I saw Toy Story 4 and I didn’t like it.
Thanks for reading and go drink some water.